the past couple of decades, more and more people have grown
more and more concerned about the environment. After centuries
of assuming that we humans can endlessly exploit nature's resources,
we have begun to realize those resources are limited. Not only
that - all the elements of nature exist in a delicate balance
that can be easily disturbed. When companies dump toxins into
our rivers, those toxins don't just wash harmlessly out to sea;
they poison countless plants, birds, reptiles and fish along
the way. When we put chemical fertilizers on our lawns, that
fertilizer doesn't just make the grass grow better; it seeps
into our lakes and rivers to damage entire aquatic ecosystems,
many of them beyond repair. When we decide to carpet our landscape
with plants from other parts of the world, we don't just create
more work for ourselves to maintain those landscapes. We destroy
the natural habitat of the butterflies, songbirds and fireflies
who have always lived here, and end up creating a green but
otherwise barren and lifeless suburban world.
the damage that humans have done to their environment is not
an easy, "one-step" process. In an increasingly globalized
world, it's intelligent and natural to be concerned about the
South American rainforests, and endangered species everywhere.
But it's our experience that real and lasting change always
begins at home, in our own back yards. And we're not just talking
about plants, but a whole approach to life.
One: Jump Into a Wildscape
it elsewhere, and we'll say it again. Using native plants in
your own landscape is the only environmentally responsible thing
to do. It will conserve water, eliminate the need to use toxic
chemicals, and provide welcome habitat for all the living creatures
whose presence holds the delicate web of life together.
that using native plants in a home landscape is not always easy.
They can be difficult to find. Archaic and uninformed "standards"
for home landscaping still exist in some communities that specify
a certain height for lawn grasses, for example, or even demand
that homeowners plant lawns with specific non-native species.
But these regulations can be challenged and changed. In theory,
we ourselves put them in place and we can take them away.
you have to start with a planting that includes some well-placed
ornamental native grasses as part of a wildflower installation,
it's a beginning. Other people can see for themselves that "native"
doesn't have to mean "unsightly," and that a more
natural approach to gardening doesn't have to look like "weeds."
and Municipal Wildscaping Programs
the past twenty years, communities all around the country have
been steadily outgrowing their water supplies. One benefit of
planting natives is that they use less water than non-natives.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has initiated a program
called Wildscapes to encourage landscaping with natives,
and several municipal water utilities in Texas including El
Paso, Dallas and San Antonio have programs that give rebates
to homeowners and businesses who switch to native plants. Take
a look at the details on the
TPWD website, or check the Parks & Wildlife Department
website that belongs to your state to see if they have a similar
While we're in the neighborhood, we want to point out that the
wisdom of using natives does not only apply to people who have
an actual patch of dirt outside their doors where they can plant
things. Even if you live in an apartment, and all you have is
a little patch of concrete or a wooden deck where you can place
a few potted plants, natives are the way to go. A passing butterfly
or hummingbird will be much happier to see your little splash
of native Black-eyed Susans than the big hanging basket of petunias
by keeping your dollars in your pocket until you can find the
right natives to spend them on, you'll be doing much more good
than you can even imagine. The history of ecological devastation
in North America is filled with stories of some bug or bacteria
or mold that hitchhiked into the country in a shipment of tropical
plants or European trees. And, finding themselves in a hospitable
environment without predators, escaped to wreak havoc on ever-growing
acres and counties of our native land.
market for these imported species and their unintended consequences
begin to dry up, we'll be that much closer to living in a vibrant
and sustainable relationship to the natural world around us.
It starts with you, in your own back yard.